There's a low hum of revolution in College Park

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Jen Hackney of Gratitude Coffee
Jen Hackney of Gratitude Coffee Photo by Daniela Mikheal

College Park is not the neighborhood you think of when you’re thinking “change.” It’s a traditional, settled bungalow district, home to a Publix that still sports its 1950s facade and a clock shop right there on the main drag. Yet there’s a low hum of revolution if you listen closely enough, with a lot of tiny tweaks adding up to a revitalized region. The hum is loudest from the westerly direction of the Packing District, a 200-acre development of houses, businesses and apartments. That prompted the city to donate another 100 adjacent acres that will be developed into a park with trails, a brand-new YMCA and a renovated Orlando Tennis Center with 16 courts. Smaller and more immediate changes include the departure of longtime resident hair salon Alchemy and a joint venture moving soon into the old Hubbly Bubbly building – Foxtail Coffee plus a bagel business from Bruno “Pizza Bruno” Zacchini.

Saxon-Clark Furniture, Patio and Design

2421 Edgewater Drive, 407-776-8717,

Non-chain stores selling non-used furniture are scarcer than hen's teeth in Orlando, making Saxon-Clark a treasured tradition. In a combo of new and old, the retailer returns to College Park, where they started in 1996. Their 30,000-square-foot showroom in Altamonte Springs remains open, but this more intimate space is the perfect place to consult with their in-house interior designers or just browse for the perfect rug to really tie the room together.

Digress Wine

1215 Edgewater Drive, 407-426-7510,

The passing of the torch from Jay Smith, proprietor of the erstwhile Cavanaugh's Wines, to new owners Rob Chase and Brian Kerney was as smooth a handoff as you could hope for. Kerney and Chase continue the tradition of educating customers, making excellent recommendations, and stocking lesser-known bottles. As well, the spirit of hospitality lives on, as Digress has become one of College Park's finest hangouts.

Henao Contemporary Center

5601 Edgewater Drive, 407-272-0317,

Roomy visual arts facility a short trip down Edgewater hosts myriad arts events as well as markets, spoken word, dance and music curated by cutting-edge collectives like Colours of the Culture, SR50 and Ugly Orange.

Grills Lakeside Seafood Deck & Tiki Bar

4301 N. Orange Blossom Trail, 407-291-8881,

At the Orlando location of this small Florida chainlet, Grills offers lakeshore views – you can even drive your boat up and dock at the restaurant – and a beachy menu served on a roomy patio. But it's not all shrimp baskets and tiki cocktails – Grills has made a commitment to fighting the invasive lionfish scourge by offering top dollar to anglers willing to fish for the bastards. Follow their Facebook to know when their signature "froiled" Asian lionfish is available.

Gratitude Coffee

1307 Edgewater Drive, 407-421-0681,

Orlando's most beloved coffee purveyor, Jen Hackney, earned her bones sweating it out in her coffee truck, but a year ago she threw the keys in a drawer and moved inside. Her homey shop on Edgewater is a perfect representation of her personality: warmhearted and welcoming.

Tin & Taco

2429 Edgewater Drive,

College Park gets the third location of this bustling taqueria, where eight bucks scores you your choice of two tacos, or the same ingredients in a burrito, rice bowl, or tossed in a bag of Doritos. (Our fave: the beefy "Tacosaurus.") The latest avatar of peak taco should open in June.

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